You know what it’s like. You need a novel solution, a unique design, a mind-blowing, market-changing, million dollar idea that no one has ever thought of. And every time you sit back to let your brain do its thing, the only thought that comes into your mind is…
…“What’s for lunch?”
If that’s ever happened to you, don’t sweat it. It doesn’t mean you’re not creative or that you’re obsessing about food. It just means your creative skills could have taken a whack from one of these powerful creativity killers.
Caffeine is great for staying up through the night when you need to cram for an exam, but not so good when you need to do more than recite facts from rote. A strong cup of coffee will cause the body to release adrenaline, raising blood pressure, tightening muscles and slipping some extra sugar into the bloodstream for a quick energy boost.
All of that is useful if you want to stay awake for a short time but harmful when you need to let your synapses form associations and allow the ideas to flood in.
The real trouble starts though after the caffeine wears off. Big coffee drinkers can feel tired, irritable and depressed as withdrawal sets in. All they can think of then is when they can get their next fix, and that can be pretty distracting.
You might think then that if being tired and short of coffee is bad for your creativity then being hyper and energetic would be good for it.
Although some researchers have argued that creative children may be mistaken for those with attention deficit disorders, in practice, rushing around wildly is more likely to send your mind down multiple avenues instead of focusing it on the one route likely to solve a specific problem.
Relaxing your thoughts so that you’re aware of them and can direct them is likely to bring much better results.
And that’s why multi-tasking is a major creativity killer too. If you’re listening to music, watching television or waiting for a download to finish while you’re working on a project, your mind won’t be focused. Inevitably after a few seconds, you’ll find that it drifts towards one of your other tasks, anticipating the next line in the song, looking up to see what’s happening in the show or checking to see if the download has finished yet.
When you really need to get something done — and done in an original way — it often pays to shut the door, turn off the music and listen only to what your thoughts are telling you.
One Information Stream
Before you turn everything off though, listen to what lots of people are telling you.
Creativity might be about producing things that no one else has thought of, but all creative processes start somewhere and the more input you have at the beginning, the more launching posts you’ll have later on — and the more ways of getting to where you want to go.
So even though you’re likely to have a favorite source to which you like to turn regularly for inspiration, it can pay to expand your options. And that includes looking at different fields too. Photographers can benefit from looking at trends in graphic design, programmers can follow what animators are talking about, and designers could find themselves hit with a bright new idea after seeing news about the dance world.
A creative mind needs to be an open mind too.
Sometimes a little competition can force us to focus but you can have too much of any good thing, including concentration. Although deadlines help to ensure that things get done, they don’t guarantee that what’s delivered on time is the best that can ever be delivered.
That applies to the effects of competition too.
If you’re battling to produce a widget, wonder-tool, website or whatever that’s better than someone else’s, you’re going to be spending at least half your time looking over your shoulder to see what the competition is up to. That competitor then can become the one main information source that’s holding up the creativity.
If you really want to break the mould, try assuming that you have no competitors and that your product will be the best because there’s nothing else like it.
It works for Apple.
The real trouble with being creative is that creative people are first. That means they’re in untested territory. Come up with a whole new way of putting content on the Web, of sharing photos or comparing prices and you’ll have no idea if the idea is sound or silly.
Build on someone else’s idea and they’ll have done the hard work for you. But that won’t be very creative.
[tags] creativity [/tags]